Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Enneagram and ME: The Bad

The Enneagram has been a wonderful, if difficult, tool since I read it in December. (If you missed yesterday's post about ancient personality typing, click here.) It's not meant to pigeonhole us in any one type but should serve instead as a guide, a way of better understanding who we are and how we relate to others and God.

As I mentioned Monday, I had a hard time figuring out which type I was.  There were many aspects of the other types that I related to.  After going back and forth, it turns out I'm a Four.  As Rohr observed, this realization made me miserable.  While there are wonderful attributes associated with Fours, unredeemed Fours don't come across as the best people. Believe me, I've had many unredeemed moments in my life.

I'm a little anxious to put myself on display in this way, especially to start with the dark side of Fours.  It's hard to confront some of the ugliness in my character. In some cases, I know that I'm not the same person anymore.  In others, there's still lots of room for growth. Either way, I don't come across too pretty here. You're about to learn more about me than you may want!

Still, I'm not posting this for reassurance that I'm not that bad or that I've grown.  I know that.  I'm posting this because vulnerability in the moment is an area I need to work on.  I think I'm pretty great but I don't ever want to come across as someone that has it all together.  I'm a work in progress, as you shall see.

The following statements are traits of Fours, according to Rohr and Ebert's work.  My insights are below.

1. Fours' life question is "What do you think of me?" They strive to be exceptional, unique, and creative.
So much of my early life was about this question.  I completely defined myself by what others thought or at least what I thought they thought about me.  It wasn't as much about approval as it was being noticed.  I still want to be noticed. I want people to see me as Creative with a capital C, not just someone who is creative.  I don't like being put in a box.  I want to be known for being the best at something or at least someone who stands out.

2. They are primarily shaped by longing: for beauty, for wholeness, for love. The longing is more important than the receiving.
I started daydreaming about my wedding the first time I played with Barbie and Ken.  The desire to be married shaped me, especially as this is currently an unfulfilled longing.  I have to remind myself that marriage won't always be roses and sunshine and my husband will let me down at some point.  No one but God can meet our deepest needs. We will never be satisfied on earth.  I'm always surprised when my dreams do come true.  After years of pining away over a trip to Ireland, I couldn't believe when I actually made it there and how God brought it together.  You'd think that would be enough but I simply moved on to longing over the next destination.  I force myself to write down the ways my dreams have come true because it's too easy for me to move on to the next unfulfilled desire.

3. Their style and spontaneity is often contrived.
I don't have to look any further than the skater, grunge, and hippie looks I sported in junior high and high school.  I put a lot of effort into looking like I didn't care about my appearance or my activities.  I tried to define myself through my clothes. Of course people could see right through that.  By college, I had a better sense of my style, that really spoke to who I am.  My mom likes to call it Retro Eclectic, though I'd say it's more Bohemian Chic.  It's fun that friends can see a certain shirt or dress and say, "that's totally you!" and be 100% right. As far as spontaneity, I do love to plan ahead but I'm generally up for anything, unless it's on Sunday nights.  I've learned that I need time to prepare for the week ahead so I try to keep Sunday nights low-key.  The rest of the time?  I'm game.

4. Unredeemed Fours believe they're responsible for rejection or hurt, that they are "bad."
Anytime anything bad happened, I would always believe it was my fault or that it was because it was me.  Not getting asked to Homecoming, losing out on a job, not getting the internship I wanted, being hurt by a friend...always in my mind, I didn't deserve any better.  I still have a hard time believing that good things will happen in my life.  Even when I feel positive about something, I'm still preparing myself to be letdown.  It's ironic that I'm encouraging to others but I'm my own worst critic.

5. Temptation: strive frantically for authenticity.
I've always looked for authenticity in others, thanks to a discerning spirit.  This was true even when I wasn't authentic.  Being raised in the church and attending a Christian grammar school gave me a lot of head knowledge and I sure was good at saying all the right things, even when I was knee-deep in my depression.  Over the past 15+ years, I've become better at sharing the difficulties in my life or how God has worked.  However, it's a past-tense authenticity.  I wait until it's nicely packaged with a bow before sharing.  It's much harder for me to be present-moment, here's my pain, I don't have a clue what to do, authentic.  This is something I'm definitely working on.

6. Defense mechanism: artistic sublimation.
Adding to the above, it was very hard in junior high to admit I was struggling with depression and suicidality.  I would write pages upon pages in my journal about how miserable I was.  I would sketch in my drawing books or paint for awhile.  There's a reason Art Therapy exists!  I loved symbolism and music.  I've always loved to write poetry when I'm dealing with a difficult moment.  And let's just all agree that passive aggression is not the way to handle conflict with friends but I didn't learn that lesson until after college.  I was the queen of the silent treatment.  When I'm upset, I still tend to withdraw.  I'll cry and journal for awhile.  Then I just want to curl up with a book or movie and let everything else fall away.

7. Root sin is envy.  There's nothing that Fours can't be envious about.  This can also translate as jealousy.
Dear Lord, is this one ever true!  God and I have many heart to hearts about my tendency to compare myself to others.  This is definitely the root of my past depression.  If I hadn't compared myself, how would I have found myself lacking in so many ways?  How else did I convince myself of such utter lies?  Even now, I have to watch myself, whether it's comparing the number of blog subscribers to someone else or who else has received an accolade at work or why the girl I used to babysit for just got engaged.  If I let myself go down the roads of envy, it's not a pretty sight.

8. Their pitfall is their melancholy. Fours have to be depressed from time to time in order to be happy.  There is pleasure in suffering.
Several years ago, I realized that I actually liked being miserable.  It's what I was used to and there was a comfort in going down the same downward spiral.  This, my friends, was after I'd been to college and dealt with the depression and self-esteem issues leftover from junior high.  I finally accepted that I had a choice of whether or not I was going to feel miserable when those triggers showed up.  Now there's a fine line between melancholy and feeling sad.  I make sure that I allow myself to feel sad and cry because there are things for which we need to feel sad and cry.  On the other hand, I know myself well enough to know when I'm hanging on to sadness and using it as an excuse to choose poorly.

9. Fours direct aggression against themselves. They are disgusted by themselves and their bodies.
In junior high I was convinced that I was ugly and worthless.  I can't even describe how much I hated myself.  I wanted to kill myself but couldn't go through with it, which became another reason to hate myself.  If I'd known about cutting, I probably would have done it.  I liked food too much to ever develop an eating disorder, which is merciful given everything else.  That girl is not ME anymore but she's still there, at times insecure and in need of reassurance.  I think that I'm cute and, on occasion, hot but I haven't gone so far as to say that I'm beautiful.  I'm working on it though!  Really though, to go from believing that I'm ugly to believing that I'm attractive has been huge. 

10.  They need friends and family that can firmly stand against their changing moods.
My poor friends and family.  Remember that passive-aggressive, silent-treatment-giving girl I mentioned before?  I honestly marvel about why people were friends with me in high school.  I am so thankful for those that have stuck by me and that have spoken truth into my life and called me out on my crap. I've turned out to be a great friend in the end! I'm not as moody as I used to be but I think my former roommates will agree that still I have my moments.  (I like to think that they're limited to a certain time in the month but it's probably better that I live alone now.) (My poor future husband. Perhaps I'll have worked through this particular issue by then?)

11. They are sensitive and easily hurt. They cry easily and are very moved by beauty, sorrow, and pain.
I see sensitivity as a blessing and a curse. I often cry during TV shows, movies, and books.  In fact, I associate being moved to tears as a sign of good art. My compassion enables me to be an effective counselor.  On the other hand, I take things a little too personally.  If I haven't heard from a friend in awhile, I believe that they must not like me anymore or that they're mad at me or...  I appreciate constructive criticism, really I do, but I hate it in that moment.  That's why I've given my inner circle full permission to call me out on certain things- that way I can only be mad at myself.  I have definite weepy seasons, where I cry or am on the verge of crying, for really no reason. I tend to think it happens if I haven't been as good about self-care and let my emotions pile up.

As a reminder that I'm still a good person, me and Erin
Tomorrow I look at the positive side of Fours.  Stay with me?

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  1. 4's are my favorite friends. You all are so worth the "trouble." My life would be so staid without you all in my life.

    You shake things up in me and ignite my passion. I am thrilled to know of this part of you. You can defintiely be all this you will with me.

  2. This all so interesting! You have obviously gotten a lot of insight from this. I hadn't heard of enneagrams before, but this prompted to me to take a free online test. (Maybe you have a specific one to recommend?) This one says I am a I have to figure out what exactly that means!


  3. @Kim, I'm so glad to hear we're worth the trouble! It looks like our friendship is meant to be:)

    @Ruth, I'm not aware of any particular on-line tests as it was ingrained in me to read up on it, ponder, and discuss before coming to a conclusion. In yesterday's post, I linked to an overview of all the types, which would be worth reading. In some ways I can see you as a 3 but in others I'm not sure since we haven't lived in the same state for almost a decade. Let me know what you think!

  4. Thank you for giving us a chance to know the real you. I need to read it, because I qualify for what you've said about 4's and 2's.


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